Summary: We have all been recipients of grace. We are to exercise grace. Joseph gives us a great example of a man who did just that.
Outside the Lord Himself, Joseph is one of the best examples of the Bible characters for acting right and having the right kind of attitudes in bad situations.
Joseph had some bad things happen to him, but he just kept on doing right and thinking right. His brothers were jealous of him, and they sold him to some travelers, and as a 17 year old boy, he became a slave in Egypt. He was falsely accused and thrown into prison, where he stayed for a number of years. He helped some influential people, who promised to speak to the Pharaoh on his behalf, but they didn’t do it, so he remained in prison for another 2 long years. All the time, there is no hint of bitterness or desire for revenge.
How does a person do that? It doesn’t just come naturally, does it? Here is the answer: It is only when we have received grace, have directed our minds to dwell on grace, that when we are mistreated, falsely accused, and passed over, that we can truly exercise grace. The devil doesn’t want us to know about this, but God has clearly revealed it to us in the Bible. He has commanded us to do it, and in this passage, among others, He has given us an example of someone who did it, and has shown us how He honored it, when it was done.
The grace of familiarity
The whole story of Joseph’s meeting his brothers is a story of grace, but I want to point out that it was just pure grace that Joseph told his brothers who he was , and that he did so in a friendly way.
He had recognized his brothers, but they hadn’t recognized him. There are at least 3 reasons that they didn’t recognize Joseph: 1) More than 20 years had gone by, and his appearance had changed; 2) they would have never expected to find the brother they sold into slavery in such a high position. He was Prime Minister of Egypt, he was the man in control of things; 3) Pharaoh had given him a new name. Ge.41:45 says his name was called "Zaphnath-Paaneah," and that’s what everybody in Egypt called him.
But, Joseph decided to act in grace and reveal himself to his brothers, and in Ge.45:3 that’s exactly what he did.
If our Lord had not acted in grace and chosen to reveal Himself to us, we could have never known Him. We could never figure Him out on our own. We could know that there is a god, but we wouldn’t know His name, His character, or His will.
The grace of fellowship
Look again at verse 3: Joseph tells his brothers to please come near him. He could have spoken the word and had them imprisoned, or even put to death. But, instead of returning evil for evil, Joseph acted in grace.
Now, can’t you see that we are the brothers in this picture? When we make spiritual application, we’re the brothers! Jesus is the one who calls us to come near in sweet fellowship with Him, in spite of all the wrong we’ve done. That’s amazing, abounding grace.
There’s also a lesson here about how we are supposed to act when we are mistreated. We are not supposed to return evil for evil, or fight fire with fire. The Bible teaches that we are to take a different approach.